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Could Trump Budget Reverse Health Innovation in Colorado?

Community health centers in Colorado - which provide medical, dental and mental-health care regardless of a person's ability to pay - are helping reduce health-care costs. (Pixabay)
Community health centers in Colorado - which provide medical, dental and mental-health care regardless of a person's ability to pay - are helping reduce health-care costs. (Pixabay)
May 24, 2017

DENVER - President Donald Trump's proposed budget includes cutting more than $800 billion from Medicaid, and some Colorado health officials are concerned the move could reverse progress made by a pilot program that has managed to improve health outcomes and cut costs.

Ross Brooks, chief executive of Mountain Family Health Centers, said Medicaid Prime, currently at work in six Colorado counties, has been especially important for middle-class and low-income workers in the state's expensive resort communities.

"Basic affordability is out of reach for a lot of families," he said, "which means that people delay getting necessary preventive care that works, and instead wait until problems become big issues - and wait to access health care - until, oftentimes, it's too late."

Prime began in 2014 as a way to manage payments under Medicaid expansion, and has shown that when more people have access to preventive care, costs can be contained.

Brooks said the proposed Medicaid cuts would put 400,000 Coloradans at risk of losing coverage, but is hopeful the U.S. Senate will see the value of expanding programs such as Prime as it revises the American Health Care Act.

A recent report on health outcomes across Colorado found large disparities between wealthy and poor counties. Brooks said programs such as Prime, working with the state's safety-net health centers, can ensure care is affordable to all. He said another key is to aggressively reach out to low-income families.

"To help them get the primary medical care they need, the mental health care they need, or the dental/oral health care that they need - at an affordable price - to try to close some of those gaps," he said. "We're seeing that in our communities, those disparities are closing."

The 2017 County Health Rankings found people of color continue to be at the greatest risk for poor health outcomes. Inadequate housing, limited access to grocery stores and healthy food, and living in areas where it's unsafe safe for kids to play outdoors were cited as some of the factors that contribute to poor health.

The Prime report is online here, and county rankings are at countyhealthrankings.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO